Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The unmistakable Lucian Freud (b.1922) etching, Head and Shoulders of a Girl, top right, was the star lot of the inaugural sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints and Drawings held by Bloomsbury Auctions (17.5/10% buyer's premium) in their elegant new premises at Maddox Street in Mayfair on July 2.

Just like Bonhams, whose auction rooms round the corner in Bond Street have recently undergone a major makeover, Bloomsbury Auctions are keen to become more significant players in the currently buoyant auction market for Modern and Contemporary art.

A total of £160,000 from just under 400 lots (of which around 30 per cent was left unsold) representing a solid enough, if a relatively modest, start.

Dating from 1988 and measuring 2ft 3in x 21in (69 x 54cm), this privately entered Freud etching was a rich and fresh impression initialled in pencil and numbered 29/50. Competition from at least four bidders resulted in an upper-estimate price of £16,000, which is an auction record for this particular composition and the 10th highest bid ever offered for a print by Freud.

Eighteenth century portraiture is supposedly a far less commercial commodity at the moment, but this 2ft 6in x 2ft 1in (81cm x 63cm) canvas Attributed to Nathaniel Dance (1735-1811) of Mrs Elizabeth St John Balguy of Derwent Hall, Derbyshire, bottom right, attracted no fewer than five determined bidders when it came under the hammer at the Woking rooms of Ewbank (15% buyer's premium).

According to Burke's Landed Gentry, the Balguys are one of the oldest families in England, having been landowners in Derbyshire for 20 generations. Elizabeth St John Balguy (née Gould) died in 1793. This canvas, which was in lined but otherwise unrestored condition and estimated at £5000-8000, was the pick of a group of four portraits of the Balguy family entered into this Surrey sale.

It was eventually bought by a private buyer on the telephone at £16,000, which, in the current market, is a fairly strong price for an 18th century half-length portrait only attributed to Dance.